Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

May 14, 2011


This non-fiction genre book is one of the two biographies of Cleopatra recently published (in 2011).  It tells the life of Cleopatra the 7th, an Egyptian Queen at 18, a ruler for 22 years, a sole female ruler of the ancient world , considered the richest person in the whole Mediterranean, she descended from the tenth generation of the Ptolemy’s - Macedonia Greeks, a dynasty of murderers, and faithfully upheld the family tradition.  Family tradition married her to her younger brother. To keep her empire she later married two men who held the faith of the whole Mediterranean in their hands.  She had a child with one of them and three more with the other.
The goal of this book is to give us facts only, not myths created by her depictions in movies or plays and since many people spoken for her, including Shakespeare, we have been putting words in her mouth for 2000 years. Many historical events are taken from the writings of Cicero who wrote comments on the events in his lifetime on Cleopatra, Caesar and Mark Anthony.  The book disputes the famous tale when Cleopatra decadently dissolved her pearl earning in a glass of wine. In the 1800s chemists prove this myth also wrong.  The book depicts the daily lives of everyday people of Alexandria, in the days of its being the cultural center of the world.  It tells us about the famous Library of Alexandria – a collection of the knowledge of the ancient world which later perished in flames.
The book also puts her life in historical perspective: 1300 years separate her from Nefertiti, the Sphinx in her days already undergone restoration thousand years earlier. The nation she lost did not recover sovereignty until 21st century. She died at 39, a generation before the birth of Christ, but will be a celebrity for the rest of eternity

Reviewed by Library Staff